The Career Success Equation

What motivates you? Probably a number of things when you think about it; your children, money, the desire to acquire something you hold dear, some philanthropic desire to do good – maybe revenge. Not all the things that motivate us are inherently good, yet they motivate us nonetheless.

Whatever the source of our motivation, the benefit is that we are spurred to act; to move with purpose in achieving our goal(s), bringing into our reality the thing(s) that we hope for. Want something badly enough, and we will take the steps we deem necessary to eventually realize the thing(s) we wish for. When we reach our goal(s) we obtain not only the thing(s) we wanted, but a measure of happiness.

There are problems which threaten this equation of identifying what we want, planning to get it, acting the plan, achieving the goal and the happiness that goes with it. Let’s look at what goes wrong when we fail to bring about the end goal of happiness as it pertains to a career.

It’s possible we don’t know what motivates us; we have yet to identify the career that we predict will end in happiness, therefore there is no plan to put in place, nor any actions to take because the goal itself is not defined. Without knowing what it is we want, we can have all the resources in the world, but we cannot put them to use because the motivation just isn’t there without something to apply those resources to. The result is that we float along, witness time passing, feel anxious because we should have some purpose; something to strive for and achieve of value, but it eludes us. We know we’re in the wrong job.  Without a goal that holds meaning, we may feel failure and anxiety just not being able to figure it out. We are if you will, still trying to determine, “What do I want to be?”

Identifying what it is we ultimately want as a career is essential to bringing about our happiness. If we lack the resources to devise a plan, the action we take may be hit and miss; with a great deal of energy spent doing things that bring us no further to our goal. In other words, if the blueprint or steps to achieve the career goal are not clearly identified, it is unlikely we will move toward our goal with any clear direction. Our path is fraught with false starts, wasted time and disappointment, threatening our belief that the achievement of our goal is possible.

Even when we know the career we want and we have the resources to put together a plan to make it happen, there is still no guarantee that we will ultimately succeed. It may well be that we lack the next crucial step; taking the action required to act on the plan. We may feel a career as an Interior Designer would bring us great happiness, and we may know that a return to school is the way to go about getting the required education and training to bring it about. However, we may also fail to act; anxious of the debt we would incur to return to school, fretting over the fear of ultimately failing.

Ironic as it is, there are those who know exactly what they want, and they are intelligent enough to know how to turn that want into reality. However, they fail to act because a small but very influential part of them whispers, “What if we’re wrong? If we go to school and get the education needed, there’ll be nothing to stop us from doing what it is we believe will make us happy. As long as we don’t act the plan, we’ll always have the knowledge that we know what we want. If we act the plan and we’re wrong about this career in the end, then what?” And so this nagging doubt leaves them paralyzed to act and they go about their daily lives with guilt; unsatisfied with the present and living with a dream.

To realize success, we must have a goal, develop a blueprint, gather the resources needed and finally act the plan. So we must have an employment goal that we project we will bring us happiness; something we will be meaningful and put a smile on our face. We then devise a step-by-step plan to move us from where we are to where we want to be. We must then act on the plan, knowing that with each step we achieve, we create movement toward our goal, decreasing the space between where we are at any given moment and our end goal. In acting the plan, we use the resources available to us, and we problem solve as we go, gathering needed resources to overcome our barriers as they present themselves.

As to our goal of being an Interior Designer, why not make it happen? As we feel passion for design, we are confident this is our career of choice. We investigate design courses and schools with reputations for excellence. We apply for funding to assist with our education and invest in our future happiness, excelling because the content is meaningful. We graduate and stand with pride at the end, happy as our goal of becoming an Interior Designer is realized.

When A Job Search Should NOT Be A Priority

Contrary to what you might think, not all unemployed people should be chastised for not looking for work, and in fact the best way to help them to move forward with their lives is actually to give them the permission and approval to explicitly forget it entirely. Huh? Not the kind of advice taxpayers typically want to read about.

Consider however that for many job seekers, a lack of employment is only one of several issues or barriers that they are typically dealing with. For quite a few people, the loss of a job may be the result of getting fired or let go, and WHY they got let go could be for anger on the job inappropriately expressed and manifested in a fight. Or perhaps drug or alcohol use discovered on-the-job. And a third example may be coming to work looking rough, maybe in the same wrinkled clothing, unshaven and with increasing body odour. So what’s going on? To find out, you’ve got to ask some questions.

In the above examples, you’ve got people with anger management issues that don’t know how to vent in socially acceptable ways, an addiction issue and a stable housing issue. Running out to get that next job immediately will only result in a series of jobs with poor performance and repeated failure. A better strategy to effectively move forward may just be to forget the job search for a month and get some stable housing; even if it’s below the standard the person has been used to based on what they can now afford. With stable housing in place, which could take the better part of a month or two to find, that person can focus better on the job search without the distraction of not even having a roof over their head.

An addict may or may not be able to hold down a job, but one of the things that’s going to be critical is ongoing support from some Addictions Counsellor, and possible meetings, be they in groups or 1:1. The person with anger issues might look great on paper and do well in the interview, but have no tolerance for what they consider to be stupid co-workers or Supervisors. Hence they lose patience extremely quickly and react with physical violence, swearing, and don’t know how to deal with their pent-up anger causing them to explode. A walking time bomb on the job if you will is not going to be able to retain a job without some counselling.

If you are dealing with people in these situations, or you recognize yourself, it may be the best advice you can receive to hold off on resuming a job search until you can get these issues and others like them under control. Any phone book, social service agency, medical professional, or an internet search will help you turn up possible sources of help. Remember that seeking out help from others is not a weakness but rather a realization that you have to make some changes; and that’s a strength. Rather than waste precious time trying to keep your not-so-secret problem to yourself, reduce the time it will take to deal with your issues by getting professional help as soon as possible.

Once you’ve got a handle on some of your issues, then you can turn with greater confidence to finding a job and you may be in a better position to actually keep it longer. The end result is a stable job, a steady income, increased self-esteem and greater confidence.

All the best!

Defining Your Barriers To Employment

One of the most difficult things to do is objectively look at yourself, your situation and your circumstances and then identify exactly what’s holding you back from moving forward. For this reason, many people will often turn to others and say, “What’s wrong with me?”

The reason most often cited by people who don’t undertake the exercise of objectively looking at themselves is that they aren’t going to like what they see. After all, it’s one thing to talk about other people and their problems, but more difficult to open up a conversation about your own shortcomings; even if that conversation is one you are having with yourself!

Please realize though, whether you actually label yourself with a barrier, it’s there whether you label it or not. So for example, if you don’t have your Grade 12 education and employers see that as the bottom of the barrel in their eyes, whether you personally admit that’s a barrier or not doesn’t matter; employers do – and they call the shots in setting the standard.

Typical barriers to employment include: addictions, criminal record, lack of permanent housing, poor personal grooming and hygiene, no employment goal, literacy issues, lack of experience and references, out-of-date education and training, poor attitude, lack of transportation and more. You could add a poor resume and not using cover letters, no support around you, childcare issues, caregiver responsibilities. You might have anger issues, poor interpersonal skills, anxiety, depression and other mental or physical health concerns. Bottom line? It can be a long list.

Now is it depressing and somewhat painful to put on a piece of paper all the barriers that you face? Perhaps. It might seem like a, “Here’s all the things that are wrong with me” list. Well don’t see it that way. Look at the list you compose as an inventory check you make while on a trip. It’s a long journey you’ve undertaken and the less you carry, the better able you’ll be to move forward with some consistent energy and speed. And it’s this energy that will determine how quickly you reach your goal or are delayed. It would help if you could stop for a moment and unburden yourself by dropping a few things behind.

So in your job search and your life in general, it would be useful to identify the things you need to take and those to drop. So think about that housing situation. By shifting from a job search to a housing search, you may not get a job this month, but you might just find a place to live that you can afford, and call home. With stable housing in place, you’ve got an address to stick on the resume and maybe a phone number now where people can reach you consistently. With that pressure out-of-the-way, you can drop the housing bag by the side of the road and move forward. To get help finding stable, sustainable housing, check with Social Service Agencies in your jurisdiction, or look them up in a local directory. If the housing is below your usual standards but you can afford it; see it as a temporary housing situation for 6 months or more until you get a job and get together the necessary down payment to obtain better accommodations.

If education is a barrier on your list, look into adult education. Going back to school may seem like a big step back, but if it gives you your grade 12 and helps you compete better for work, it’s well worth it. You’ll find by the way that as an adult, you’ll be taught differently and that other adults in the class like you have more buy-in than you did as teenagers. Don’t be surprised if you get much better grades than you remember – like 80’s and 90’s, and you may have to take less classes to get your grade 12 than you think.

Barriers vary from person to person, but almost every job seeker has multiple barriers; seven or eight on a list wouldn’t be uncommon. Some people who have been fired carry along unhealthy humiliation and resentment; I’ve borne that for a time in the past myself. Drop it like a stone because it does you no good and can grow a chip on your shoulder if you aren’t careful.

As you create your personal list of employment barriers, think about sharing that list with some Career Advisor or Employment Counsellor. Get solid advice on how to eliminate some of those barriers. As you lessen your load, your confidence and self-esteem will improve, your attitude become more positive and you’ll smile more. It may sound all warm and soft and fuzzy but it’s true.

Volunteering at a time when you need a paid job can also do wonders for helping you get references, experience, training, develop your people skills and of course boost your self-esteem. And volunteer work looks good on a resume.

Remember an earlier point I made in this blog and that is whether or not you choose to actually sit down and identify your employment barriers, they will still be there. By putting your barriers down on paper, you take a small but critically important first step in taking an inventory of what’s standing in the way of getting a job. Sure it might not make you feel all that great in the beginning when you face the list, but it’s only a start. Then when you’ve got an idea of just how heavy the load is you are carrying around, you can start to figure out what you really don’t need and drop it!

Why YOU Need To Get Moving NOW!

Imagine if you will a circle in the middle of a large piece of paper. In the center of that circle, you print your name to represent yourself at this point in time, March 19, 2013. Now draw on that paper, extended out in relative equal proximity, 4 or 5 boxes with each representing possible career or job opportunities that you are interested in. It will not matter if they are in the same field or sector, and in fact the point might be better made if they were diverse in nature, so don’t feel constricted in your choice.

Now standing back from that paper, look at the image before you for a moment. There you are in the middle with a few options before you that you have an interest in pursuing. One of the first things you need to realize and accept is that because you yourself put a job or career in each of those 4 or 5 boxes that you would find rewarding and fulfilling, any single one of them would bring you a measure of happiness and satisfaction. This must be clearly internalized and accepted, because you chose the job titles yourself rather than having someone else impose them on you. If you only put something down because others expect it of you but it’s not something you want really, go back and erase it and substitute it with a job or career that really would bring you a measure of happiness.

Okay now, choose one of those boxes and draw a line out from the center circle towards it. Along that line, place 7 or 8 shorter perpendicular lines. Each one of these intersecting shorter lines represents a barrier that must be overcome; a step that must be achieved in order to continue to move toward your goal. Now some of these barriers and steps are relatively easily achieved as in the case of targeting your resume to that position. However others are more time-consuming, such as in the instance where you must attend some University, College or training program to acquire the necessary credentials to compete for that job or career.

Of critical importance in this exercise is the objectivity it takes to plot things out honestly. So if a return to school to take a 3 or 4 year program isn’t something you are willing to undertake, but is necessary in order to eventually compete and be interviewed/hired for a career or job, you have to accept then that you will not obtain that ultimate goal represented in the box you are heading toward. If this is what you experienced, draw a second line to another of your boxes with a different job or career from your circle in the center of the page. Plot out the same lines and repeat the process. You may find that one job or career is more easily obtainable with acceptable steps which will remove the barriers, and have you arrive at your chosen career or job.

But here is why YOU really need to get going NOW. You see that circle in which you printed your name? Well that’s you today being the 19th day of March 2013. How long has it been since you had paid employment? How current are your references? How up-to-date are your technical skills and academic knowledge? The longer you stay in this center area, without focused movement toward one of your chosen career or job goals, the more your experience will become distant, your references less relevant, your technical or academic skills outdated.

Now the loss of those assets are of immense concern on their own. However, what is less immediately obvious, is that further problems and barriers will appear along all of the lines you have drawn extending out from your center. The longer you remain without movement in any direction, you will notice perhaps Fear, Depression, Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Isolation appearing. While the appearance of one or two is difficult to overcome, the presence of all of these accumulated together can be debilitating and paralyzing.

Now some might find this whole process demoralizing and frustrating. If this is your reality however, seeing things for the way they are is the first step to making change. You DO have the power to make change in your own life and no one is as impacted by whatever decision you make from this day going forward as you yourself. You have the capacity to continue in the center, blaming a past employer, an illness, a disability, a failed relationship or any other of a number of things, including poor past decisions you have made. Or, you have the power and ability to take a step, (large or small) in one direction, and by doing so, shorten the distance between where you are and where you want to be.

If you find that plotting out your barriers was easy although distressing, but plotting out the steps to remove those barriers is the challenge, enlist the aid of an Employment Counsellor or Career Coach. It may be that they recommend other professionals, such as a Mental Health Counsellor, or a Physiotherapist or a Guidance Counsellor. Who ever you consult and work with becomes part of your ‘team’. Take this step and you can pride yourself on movement and reduce the negative effect of Isolation.

This is only one tool designed to help get you moving but like any tool, it is only useful if you pick it up and use it.